The Murder Of Catherine Mountain

Although the murders of Elizabeth Stride and Catherine Eddowes, and the appearance of the Jack the Ripper letter dominated the newspapers throughout the first two weeks of October, 1888, other murders also occurred throughout the country, some of them of equal barbarity to those being carried out in Whitechapel.

One such homicide took place in Yorkshire on Wednesday, 10th October 1888, and was reported by The Sheffield Evening Telegraph on Thursday, 11th October, 1888:-


“The usually quiet village of Sherburn-in-Elmet, Yorkshire, was thrown into consternation the other day by a report that during the night Mrs. Catherine Mountain, landlady of the Travellers’ Rest public house at that place, had been brutally murdered by her son, George Mountain.

The report, unfortunately, proved too true, for it was found that a most horrible murder had been committed.

Mrs. Mountain, who is said to have been between 70 and 80 years of age, kept a small public-house adjoining the Grammar School at Sherburn, and her son had for some time past acted as her manager.


On the previous evening, at about ten o’clock, the only persons in the house were a boy, who was asleep in bed, the accused, George Mountain, his mother, and Annie Hutchinson, the servant girl. The house had been closed for the night, and the accused went into the room in which his mother and the maid were sitting and locked the door. This was at about eleven o’clock.

Shortly afterwards, Mrs. Mountain suggested that they should go to bed, to which the accused replied that he was not going, nor were they – meaning his mother and the maid. Little notice of this appears to have been taken by the two latter, as the mother retaliated by saying that he had only said that to frighten them, as he had done before. He persisted, however, in his statement that they were not going to bed; and about half an hour later he commenced to knock his mother about, and getting her on the floor kicked her to death.


With so much violence did he carry out his threats that the poor woman expired between one and two o’clock in the presence of the maid, who was perfectly helpless, and who was threatened by the accused that he would treat her the same.

His brutality did not stop with the death of his mother, but he stripped off her clothing just before she died, and continued kicking her up to about four o’clock in the morning. The features of the poor woman were beyond recognition.

He continued kicking her till about four o’clock in the morning. As may be imagined, the features of the poor woman as she lay in the room where this horrible tragedy occurred were beyond recognition. In all directions were pieces of bone, hair, blood, and other evidences of the man’s violence. Pieces of bone, hair, and blood were found in the fire-grate, where they had been thrown by him, and the roof of the poor creature’s mouth was picked from the floor, as were also a number of teeth and portions of bone and flesh.


Such a frightful scene as the room presented can scarcely be imagined. The poor girl Hutchinson was in a terrible state of excitement, being totally unable to help herself.

Her screams brought no relief, but the policeman, who passed the house about 12 o’clock, heard nothing to rouse his suspicions that anything was going on inside.

The prisoner appears to have fallen asleep after the murder, when the servant gave an alarm.


The prisoner, who is a short, thick-set man of about 30 years of age, was brought up in custody before the Hon. H. E. Maxwell Stuart and other justices, and, after formal evidence had been given by the girl, Annie Hutchinson, he was remanded for a week.

The prisoner presented a rather wild appearance, and said he did not know what he was doing, and he thought it was someone who had come to rob the house.”


Annie Hutchinson, the maid, had witnesses the whole terrible event, and, on Saturday, 13th October, 1888, The Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer published the harrowing account of her terrifying experiencing that she had given at the inquest into Catherine Mountain’s death:-

“Annie Hutchinson, whose agitation rendered her evidence almost inaudible, said, in reply to the Coroner:- I have been general servant at the Travellers’ Inn for five years. Besides Mrs. Mountain, her son George and her grandson, William, lived in the house. I was in the house all last Wednesday, and when the place was closed we were all in, the little boy Willie being in bed.

After ten o’clock I began to wash the glasses. The mistress was then in her own room, and her son George was with her. We call it the top room, but it is not upstairs.


About half-past ten o’clock George came into the bar, drew a glass of beer, drank half of it, and, having locked the stairs door, took the remainder of the liquor into the top room. He had not had any more that night that I know of, but by the look of him I could tell that he had been taking drink.

He has been drinking heavily lately.

Since Monday last he kept drinking whisky and beer. He took meals all right.


When I finished washing the glasses I sat down in the bar. I did not hear any talking in the top room. All seemed to quiet. After a while George shouted to me, “Annie, have you got finished washing up?” I replied, “Yes”. He then told me to turn the gas out and lock the bar door. He has not given orders like that before. He used to lock up and turn the light out himself.

After I locked the door, he told me to take the key to him. I did so.

In the top room I found him and his mother sitting on chairs, one each side of the fireplace. He put the key in his pocket, and got up, and having fastened the room door, said, “You’ve got to stop up tonight,” and asked me to sit down. These were the first words he said.

After locking the door, he put the key in his pocket I asked him to give me the key, and he said, “No; I won’t give it up.”

His mother then asked him to let me bring the kettle in to make some tea, but he refused, saying, “You’ll get no tea at all; that door won’t be opened.”

The mistress and I sat down on the sofa, she lying at one end and I at the other.


George then went to the cupboard in which spirits are kept and brought out a pistol. I had seen the pistol before. It belonged to him. He loaded the pistol with powder and shot, which he took from the same cupboard, and held the weapon in his hand.

I said to the mistress, “What is he going to do?” Mrs. Mountain replied, “Oh, he’s only going to frighten us; it’s one of his silly acts again.”

George said, “If you wait you’ll see what I am going to do,” and sat down again. I replied, “If I had known I was to sit here all night, I should have had some nuts to crack to keep company,” whereupon George put his hand in his pocket and drew out four or five walnuts, which he threw on the table, with the remark. “You can go on with these.”


He then got up, crossed the room, and said, “That’s not my mother lying on the sofa.”

He was getting wild-looking.

Mrs. Mountain said, “It is your mother,” and kept repeating that, and George continued to say, “it isn’t,” adding, “She is too old-looking; she is not my mother.”

The mistress then stood up, and he said to her, “Take off those clothes; it isn’t like my mother at all.” He pushed her, and ordered her again and again to take off her clothes. I got up, and tried to save her. He pushed me back and said, “Stand back. I have only you two to do, and I don’t care which of you I do first.”


Then he struck his mother on the forehead with his hand, shouting, “I am going to do for you.”

She replied, “You are not going to do for either us. If you do, my lad, you’ll not live long after us.”

He again said, “You are not my mother. You are going to do for me”, and he still kept beating her violently with his fists.

The old woman fell to the ground. I seized the poker, and he turned to me and said, “I’ll shoot you if you don’t stand back.”

He took the poker from and pointed the pistol at me. I tried to get out at the window, but he pulled me back and said, “If you attempt to open that window I’ll shoot you.”

The shutters of the window were closed and barred.

After pulling me back, he said, “If you move from where you are standing I’ll shoot you,” and he shouted, “That isn’t my mother. What have you two come in to do? ”


Mrs. Mountain succeeded in rising, and he at once knocked her down again and began dragging her clothes off. kicking her at the same time, and always shouting, “It isn’t my mother.”

I never saw Mrs. Mountain rise again. She didn’t speak, but only moaned heavily.

George said, “You have come to do for me tonight. If I had gone to bed you would have done for me.”

He never ceased kicking her, except when he dragged her over the floor a bit, between the kicks.

Turning to me he asked, “How long have you been here?” I answered, “I have been in just about hour.” He said, “It’s a lie; you came in with that other one,” and told me to sit down.

He began to walk about the room, now and again returning to his mother, who was still moaning, to give her another kick. His mother became silent at two o’clock in the morning, when I heard the clock strike, but he still he kept kicking her.

He said to me, “Sit still; It’ll be your turn next, you’ll have to lie at the side of your mate,” and he threatened to shoot me if I moved.

About three o’clock he struck me with his hand.


At half-past seven he opened the window shutters. I saw Joe Johnston going past, and I went to the window; and shouted him. George ordered me to stand back, but I continued to shout, and Joe Johnston came up to the window and entered through it.

The Prisoner (interrupting): No, sir; it was me that shouted him.

Witness (continuing): I opened the window.

The Prisoner (muttering): It was me that opened the window, and took the screw out and all.

Witness: I said George had killed his mother, and George repeated that it wasn’t his mother. he had dropped his pistol, and Joe Johnston picked it up and held it in his hand.

Another man came up, then and fetched Inspector Towler who the prisoner into custody.


By Superintendent Stott (stationed at Selby): After the first blow at his mother the prisoner pulled her pocket off, and put it on the table. He counted out some gold, and made me count it as well. He stamped on his mother, in addition to kicking her. I saw him pick some pieces of bone up off the floor and throw them on to the fire. I saw him with a knife in his hand at one time, which he had taken from his pocket. he stabbed his mother in the side with it. That was after the old woman was dead.

In the course of the night he made me kneel down, and presented bis pistol  at my head, and then he let me get up.


Mr Joseph Thirkell, surgeon, said that he had known Mrs. Mountain six or seven years.

On Thursday morning, he was called to the Travellers’ Inn, where he found the body of the deceased lying on the floor in the “top room.” The body was undressed, and was smeared with blood. Both arms were broken at the wrist, and the face of the woman was so battered that the features were unrecognisable.

He had made a post-mortem examination that evening, and discovered two bruises on the right leg, which was fractured above the ankle.


There was a deep lacerated wound in front of the right fore-arm, extending to the bone, and another on the right wrist, and the left arm, besides being broken, was all bruised.”

The lower jaw was broken into pieces, the skin and bone on the left side being gone, while the upper jaw was missing entirely.

The bones of both orbits were gone, the right eye had disappeared, and the left eye was out of its socket.

The skin of the skull was separated from the bone, and part of it was missing. Behind the right ear were two wounds about five inches long, and the left ear was nearly cut off. The neck and shoulders were covered with bruises, the collar bone was broken, the third, fifth, sixth, and seventh ribs on the left side were fractured, about three inches of the seventh penetrating the left lung, which contained about a pint of blood. All the ribs on the right side were broken. The liver was ruptured. and reduced to a pulp. There was a a fracture of the base of the skull, but no extravasation.

In his opinion, the cause of death was primarily concussion of the brain, produced by fracture of the base of the skull.

The injuries might have been caused by kicks with a strong, heavy boot.


The Coroner, in charging the jury, pointed out that there was no doubt that the deceased bad been killed by violence, and all that remained for them to ascertain who was responsible for the act.

There seemed to be no doubt as to the identity of the person, and as they had nothing to do with the state of mind in which George Mountain might have been at the time of the occurrence, their course seemed to be clear.

The jury immediately returned a verdict of Wilful murder against George Mountain.

The Coroner then committed the prisoner to take his trial at the ensuing West Riding Assizes, and the prisoner, having heard the warrant read over, was removed to the cells.”


On Friday, 14th December, 1888, George Mountain appeared at Leeds Assizes charged with the murder of his mother.

The jury found him insane, and he was duly sentenced to be confined as a lunatic.